This weekend marks an important anniversary: fifty long years ago England won the World Cup, beating West Germany 4-2 at Wembley. As a Sassenach living in Scotland I know this wasn’t and isn’t to everyone’s liking, but it hardly matters. Such has been the disappointment, not to mention despair (disgust?) surrounding subsequent England performances that those halcyon distant days seem to have cast not a warm glow but a giant curse over the national game.
The absolute nadir was reached in the humiliation against Iceland in the Euros 2016. Facing a pub team of part timers. England demonstrated overwhelmingly that money isn’t everything. Highly paid Premier League superstars they may be, but the players demonstrated that when the chips are down, they didn’t have the bottle to pick them up. It’s probably unfair to single out anyone from the omnishambles, but Captain Wayne Rooney, who trousers an astronomic weekly wage for kicking a ball around, put in a second half performance so shocking that any TV repeats should be given an X-rating. The late great Bobby Moore must be turning in his grave.
So what have the England football authorities done to reverse this disastrous decline? They’ve appointed Big Sam as the new manager, another mistake in a long line of managerial disappointments. Whilst I have every respect for his achievements at clubs like Bolton, West Ham and Sunderland, he’s Old-School and hasn’t won anything. Will he really cut it against the big boys of Brazil, Germany and Spain? I don’t think so, although I’d like to be proved wrong. There is one thing in his favour, however. England can’t get any worse. Maybe one day the football gods will take pity, lift their curse and allow England to recover at least some of that lost World Cup pedigree.